As use drops, companies get ‘help’ hyping HFCS to customers

Posted by
February 7, 2013

With consumption of high fructose corn syrup appearing to be on the decline, the Corn Refiners Association (CRA) seems to have redoubled its efforts to keep this increasingly unpopular ingredient in foods and beverages.

According to a recent Bloomberg news story the amount of corn used to produce HFCS is at its lowest level since 1997, with the Huffington Post reporting that “High fructose corn syrup consumption plummets in America amid backlash.”

But the CRA has a job to do, and since its big idea to call HFCS “corn sugar” was firmly rejected by the Food and Drug Administration last May, it appears to have stopped selling its “sugar is sugar” message to consumers and instead is hitting on the food industry.

As we first reported last August, at CornNaturally.com, the industry-geared CRA web site for food and beverage manufacturers, grocery stores and restaurants, industry people can schedule a “lunch & learn,” read that “96% of consumers aren’t avoiding HFCS,” and discover that “HFCS is simply not a top-of-mind consumer issue.”

But in another part of its education “tools and resources” the CRA will also provide food and beverage companies with canned answers to consumer questions about HFCS.

Along the lines of ‘you can’t make this stuff up,’ the CRA has developed a helpful phone script for company representatives to follow. So if you should call a company and ask “what is high fructose corn syrup,” and think the response sounds an awful lot like what Big Corn itself might say, you may be right:

Thanks for calling {company name} regarding our use of high fructose corn syrup. Your concerns are important to us, and we’re happy to answer your questions.

High fructose corn syrup, also called HFCS, is simply a form of sugar made from corn. High fructose corn syrup got its name from the fact that it is high in fructose compared to corn syrup. However, high fructose corn syrup has approximately the same amount of fructose that’s in sugar or honey.

Are there any other questions I can help you with today?

If no other questions, close with:
Again, thank you for calling. You can also find more information about high fructose corn syrup on our website and at Sweet Surprise dot com.

Also included at the page, called “how to talk about high fructose corn syrup,”  are phone responses for any customers who might chance to ask, “Is high fructose corn syrup safe and natural?” or express concerns about “high fructose corn syrup and weight gain.” And should such queries be made via email, there’s a “template” for that too!

High fructose? You bet!

While it may be amusing, there’s a high cost to all this hype, and that’s the continued use of HFCS in foods and beverages. In addition to which, the message it conveys is just a bit off kilter.

While the FDA’s legal limit on the fructose amount in HFCS is 55 percent – a 10 percent increase over sugar – studies have shown fructose levels in HFCS-sweetened soft drinks to be as much as 20 percent higher in fructose, the component considered most damaging to health. Also being marketed to the food industry is a super-high 90 percent fructose HFCS, said by a manufacturer to be “the ideal choice for reduced calorie foods…”

“We know there are differences in the way our bodies process fructose and glucose,” is how it was put by Dr. Kathleen Page, assistant professor of Clinical Medicine at the University of Southern California’s  Keck School of Medicine and co-author of a recent study on fructose and the brain in The Journal of the American Medical Association. “There are reasons to believe that fructose is worse for us than glucose,” she noted, adding, “the processing of HFCS, which could be made with higher percentages of fructose…has public health implications.”

While HFCS may be shunned by more and more consumers, it has a ways to go before it becomes a thing of the past. You still have to be a careful label reader to keep it out of your diet. So be sure and let food and beverage manufactures know where you stand on this very important issue through both the selections you make at the supermarket and by communicating to them directly how you feel about the ingredients in their products.

And if a company responds by reading you a CRA-sounding phone script, you can tell them you know exactly where that came from – and you’ll no more swallow that than you will food products laced with high fructose corn syrup!

 

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Citizens for Health has filed a petition with the FDA asking the agency to take action against food and beverage manufacturers using these ‘high-octane’ versions of HFCS, and in the interim, to have them provide accurate label information so consumers know just how much fructose is in the HFCS-sweetened food they are buying. You can sign and support that petition here.